dataDUMP = a social-driven library instruction project

August 13, 2008, 9:16 am

Our Fall Semester is less than a week ahead. This is one of the busiest times of the year, at least for reference librarian types. There is always a sort of slumber that I get used to during the summer which is jolted awake by thousands of students returning to campus. The first few days of a new semester are always exciting—a heightened energy—so I am looking forward to it, but wish I had another few weeks to finish projects.

Regarding instruction, my main liaison responsibility now is the College of Computing and I’ve tinkered around with some instruction ideas. A few professors invite me to talk with their classes, the tradition instruction approach. And a few of them also ask me to prepare handouts, help guides, or Camtasia video tutorials for their course management system–we use Sakai. Several of my colleagues offer office hours at the departments they serve or host one-shot workshops in the library focused on their particular disciplines. Good ideas, but I have found it difficult to get students to talk with me when I use these formal routes. Then of course there is the librarian with a latte model, which is office hours combined with a library instruction session but set in a café.

In keeping with the spirit of these outreach attempts, I need something that speaks to my specific audience. And so I proudly announce dataDUMP: a weekly online gathering of Georgia Tech students centered on computer science and the related culture. I’ll be using Wimba, a digital classroom environment with text, chat, app sharing, and so on. The objective is to make this a regular evening event that students might check out from time to time while they are doing other stuff online. I don’t want to make it too instruction-driven, that is, maybe we’ll talk about assignments or papers and that sort of thing if it comes up, but maybe we’ll talk about interesting new websites, software, gadgets, Wired articles, or IT gossip.

The focus is not “the library” or “using the resources” – it’s about a social outlet connecting CS majors (and perhaps a few faculty) around a topic of mutual interest. The library is a sponsor, but this is really a chance for these students to showoff their work, to ask each other questions, to share stories or code, and whatever else they are interested in. (jobs, the major, the campus, GT football, comics, movies, etc.)

DataDUMP positions the librarian as a participant, not as the all-knowing persona who is running the show or preaching about the horrible inaccuracies of Wikipedia. I figure I can learn a lot from them in terms of the curriculum, their approach to assignments, as well as about computer science.

It could totally flop– I am prepared for that, but I have to try something. If anything, I hope this approach gains me some online cred with these students. That way when I casually mention Safari Tech Books or patent searching for emerging start-ups, they might actually listen, or better yet, be interested. We'll see.

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